by St John Ervine.

Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 29 October 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 October.

Blazing performances and dramatic conviction.

It’s a simple, heart-on-sleeve, century-old piece. Though lost’ plays are usually mislaid for a reason, a centenary fringe revival will let us be kindly patronising about it: what do we need to be told about tensions between Irish Catholics and Protestants?

Such notions are blown away by the fierce blast of St John Ervine’s drama in Sam Yates’ intense, atmospheric Finborough revival. When Hugh Rainey falls for the Catholic Murray girl, his father John is curtly polite to the young woman when she visits, but any relationship is unthinkable to his Protestant mind.

Both Ervine and this production are direct, yet neither is simplistic. Rainey is a strike-leader too. An agitator’s going to break the strike by turning a rally from the battle of workers and employers into an orgy of religious bigotry. But Rainey’s respected in the community; his speech can keep the action on track. Then he learns of Hugh’s plan to marry Nora.

Daragh O’Malley’s performance shows John’s inward struggle as, kitted-out in Orange Order regalia, he sits brooding on whether the workers united or religious division will win the day for him. And as Ervine shows the immense social stakes, so he and O’Malley make it evident the father is not a bad man – amidst his stern, authoritarian speech there’s a single soft-spoken moment making clear his sense of loss at his son’s choice.

His right arm repeatedly trying to ward-off his fury, Rainey would clearly love to have the struggle between tribal instinct and the humanity of his family’s arguments, resolved for him.

His wife speaks firmly for sense – what matter religion if Nora makes their son happy? The resilient Juno Boyle and the cry against “murthering’ hate” is there in all but the actual words which a member of the 1911 audience, Sean O’Casey, later provided in Juno and the Paycock.

Fiona Victory is splendidly resolute as Juno’s prototype. A larger theatre might have allowed the play’s realism to breathe more in simple tea-cup and hospitality detail. But the Finborough, Yates ands his cast have brought this inexplicably neglected play triumphantly back to life.

Mrs Rainey: Fiona Victory.
John Rainey: Daragh O’Malley.
Tom Rainey: Joel Ormsby.
Nora Murray: Nora-Jane Noone.
Hugh Rainey: Christiopher Brandon.
Michael O’Hara: Damien Hannaway.

Director: Sam Yates.
Designer/Costume: Richard Kent.
Lighting: David Plater.
Sound/Composer: Alex Baranowski.

2011-10-28 12:41:54

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